Catherine Fahriger Scholarship winner: By Makeda Scott

When you grow up in the Caribbean, there are certain traditions and teachings that no one is allowed to escape. From the way you dress to the food you eat to the number of times you attend church services, there is an explicit list of things you must do. Wrong!

Contrary to popular belief about atheists, freethinkers and other secular identifying persons like myself, I am not without faith. My faith, however, does not lie within an intangible, imaginative being who punishes, kills and loves at his/her discretion. It lies within the tangible and remarkably enigmatic and beautiful creation that are human beings. I believe in humankind.

I didn’t identify as atheist or a freethinker until recently. In addition, I was also slow to self-identify because on top of being a “radical thinker” and an “anarchist,” as my family has so courteously classified me, I am a black gay female. My life has been centered around criticisms just for thinking the way I do and being who I am. Now that I am older and more mature, I’ve come to the realization that these groups, these minorities, these cultures that I belong to, are empowering. A lot of the achievements and strides I have made are owed to the strength and support I have garnered from others like me.

I take pride in saying I’m a nonbeliever. I take pride in saying I’m black. I take pride in saying I’m a lesbian. I take pride in saying I’m a woman. I don’t conform to societal norms, and that’s OK.

As it stands right now, there is an enormous issue within the young colored LGBTQ community in Iowa. LGBTQ youth, colored youth and youth in general tend to struggle independently with self-acceptance, but from experience and observation, the magnitude to which self-love and acceptance becomes obscured is heightened when adequate resources and opportunities for support and connection are limited.

Iowa is a majority white state, with very low percentages of minorities. It also has a largely religious population. This causes many LGBTQ minorities to feel misplaced, misrepresented and underrepresented. What I want to do is to create an outreach in my community where young colored LGBTQ persons can participate in events that will grant them a sense of involvement. I want to use the principles behind humanism as my platform. Humanism proselytizes human equality and value, and that is something these youths need to be reminded of. It teaches us there is beauty in idiosyncrasy. I believe that I can and should be a beacon for change in this world, and that it begins at home.

Makeda will be attending the University of Iowa.

Freedom From Religion Foundation